The Stronach Group May 16 said it has entered into an agreement to purchase Rosecroft Raceway, one of two harness tracks in Maryland and a major off-track wagering outlet for Thoroughbred racing, from owner Penn National Gaming Inc.
Rosecroft, located south of Washington, D.C., in Prince George’s County a few minutes from northern Virginia, was purchased by PNGI in 2011 for $11 million via a bankruptcy auction. Live harness racing was suspended a few years prior, and the track, then owned by Standardbred owners and breeders, in 2010 pulled the plug on full-card simulcasts because of a contract dispute with the Maryland Jockey Club and other Thoroughbred interests.
The Stronach Group owns the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course. MJC president and general manager Sal Sinatra said Rosecroft last year handled about $32 million in the building, with $22 million bet on Thoroughbred racing and $10 million on harness racing. On-track wagering on live races over more than 50 programs was about $850,000 in 2015.
“This (proposed purchase) has lots of tentacles,” Sinatra said. “One is that it puts us in the D.C. market. We would be able to open (off-track wagering) facilities within 35 miles.”
The Stronach Group, which is gradually expanding the off-track wagering network in Maryland, has indicated interest in having a betting parlor in the under-construction MGM National Harbor Casino located several miles from Rosecroft.
Sinatra also said the deal would allow the MJC to work with William Rickman, who owns the state’s other harness track, Ocean Downs Casino, as well as Delaware Park, with which The Stronach Group has attempted to work with on Thoroughbred racing dates in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Ocean Downs, which races live from late June through early September and offers year-round simulcasts, is the only racetrack in Maryland that has a gaming license.
The horseracing industry in Maryland currently gets 7% of video lottery terminal revenue from all of the casinos in the state. The revenue is then split 80% Thoroughbred and 20% Standardbred.
The Stronach Group said that in its “continuing effort to improve racing in the Mid-Atlantic, the purchase of Rosecroft is a logical step to strengthen the simulcasting and racing of both breeds in the state. We look forward to getting to work with the Standardbred horsemen on growing the business locally and nationally.”
Sinatra said the MJC believes it can provide some new energy for the simulcast and live racing operations at Rosecroft, which was purchased by PNGI primarily so the company could bid on the casino license that was awarded to MGM.
Completion of the purchase is subject to closing conditions, including approval of the Maryland Racing Commission. Officials said they expect all conditions to be met by the end of June or early July.
Rosecroft, which opened in 1949, at one time made up an almost year-round circuit with Freestate Raceway, which was located about one mile north of Laurel Park. It closed after its 1989 racing season and the property was redeveloped.